War Is Not a Pretty Thing

War is not a pretty thing. It is a wretched, callous, bloody and yes, sometimes necessary part of life, but it is never easy and it is never clean.

It is no hard thing to recall the images of Desert Storm: nightvision enhanced video feed from a bomb dropped through a factory chimney with surgical precision; green flashes of light as PATRIOT missiles deftly intercepted and exploded the inferior SCUDs; battalions of soldiers surrendering to cameras. There was more.

There were pictures of walls of glassy-eyed dead, piled head-high along the side of the road. There were reports, long denied but eventually confirmed, of exposure to sarin gas. There were interviews with the starving, diseased survivors of a brutal regime, harsh sanctions, and more than one war. It all may have been necessary. The price may have been worth it. But there was a price. There is always a price.

This time, the Iraqis will not be the only ones who pay.

The administration has all but rejected the idea that weapons inspections can fulfill their goal, and has treated the sanction of the UN as a bothersome formality that can be done away with if it does not conform with his plans. And as the hawks circle, they promise a clean, low casualty war.

During the Gulf War, we had the support of the United Nations. We had the support of the surrounding region. We fought for a withdrawal instead of a change in regime.

None of this is true now.

Three retired four-star generals have testified before Congress that the next attack on Baghdad would in all likelihood degenerate into the bloody crawling of urban warfare. George Tenet has said that Saddam would be likely to use biological or chemical weapons (provided he has them) in defense of his rule.

Thousands will die, and if we plan on regime change, we will stay in Iraq for a very long time.

There are no rebel factions within Iraq to use as cat’s-paws, no UN backing for a pre-emptive strike. The costs, in money and blood, will be paid by the people of the US, at a time we can hardly afford it.

The Taliban is gone, but Afghanistan requires a massive influx of money and aid. The budget surplus vanished with the trumped-up Bush tax cut, dipped into debt with an increase in defense spending, and crashed with the market as the inequities of Tycho, Enron, Haliburton and more came to light.

The economy is down, unemployment is up, Bin Laden is missing, and Saddam Hussein is a very bad man. Bush scoffs at demands for diplomacy and freely admits a glaring lack of nuclear evidence. Inspectors are useless, the UN irrelevant, allies unnecessary and proof uncalled for. We stand at the brink of both an election and war. May wiser heads prevail in both.

Editor’s note: Immediately following the distribution of last week’s issue, Information Technology sent a repairman to our office.The professional, efficient and effective service that followed is directly responsible for our continued existence. For this we offer the Information Technology department our heartfelt gratitude and hearty thanks.